Illinois could move one step closer toward becoming the 14th state to authorize the use of marijuana for medicinal purposes tomorrow. Senate sponsor William Haine, an Alton Democrat, is expected to present his version of the bill that allows restricted use of marijuana for specific individuals.
This would be the second time in the Illinois General Assembly's history that a bill proposing the authorization of marijuana use would be called for a floor vote. If signed into law, Haine's measure would allow chronic or terminally ill individuals to use the drug without fear of criminal penalty. It also would afford a primary care physician the ability to authorize use of the drug.
A similar measure is in the House. While Haine's bill proposes an individual be allowed to possess 2 ounces of dried Cannabis Sativa and three mature flowering plants, which are dried and then smoked or vaporized, Rep. Lou Lang, a Skokie Democrat sponsoring a similar bill. Both bills call for a 60-day supply but deem the Illinois Department of Public Health responsible for determining the number of dried ounces and mature plants capable of producing a 60-day supply.
Lang could call Haine's version or his own if Haine's measure passes out of the Senate tomorrow.
For Haine's bill to move out of the Senate, 30 votes are needed. In a statement Haine released today, he said he was close to getting the necessary votes. Lang needs at least 60 votes for it to go to Gov. Pat Quinn's desk. Check back tomorrow for Senate action.
Lainutis Nargalenes, a Springfield deputy chief of police, said he remained opposed to the bill and was taking a wait-and-see approach to determine if it actually passed the House.
Dann Linn, executive director of the Illinois Chapter of the National Organization to Reform Marijuana Laws (NORML), said he was optimistic the bill would pass both chambers. “We've been pushing this legislation for years for patients to get safe and legal access to their medicine,” he said.
The U.S. Supreme Court today refused to hear a case initiated by two counties in California challenging that state's medical marijuana laws. Several opponents of this type of legislation have been unsuccessful in attempts to reverse legislation in states that allow use of the drug by claiming that federal law supersedes state law. In March, U.S. Attorney Eric Holder announced a reversal of the former Bush Administration's policy to target marijuana distributors that worked within their own state's law. Marijuana is classified as a federally illegal drug, but 13 states currently permit its use through voter initiative or state legislation.